Not a surprise that Speaker John Boehner has taken a very aggressive and harsh stand against the recent Iran Accord.

http://www.nbcnews.com/video/boehner-responds-to-obamas-remarks-on-iran-deal-485446211824

Boehner could be correct, although it would be a first for him.

Boehner has led the charge to spend untold fortunes — and has further wasted even more precious intellectual resources — fighting to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare), all to no avail.

Each and every one of Boehner’s arguments on why the ACA would destroy the US economy has been refuted by facts — clear economic proof — which validate that we – as a nation – are on the right path. As recently as June, 19, 2015, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected that repealing the ACA law would COST some $353 Billion over the next decade.

Now, he wants to waste more of our precious resources on another foolish boondoggle?

It seems that Speaker Boehner has modeled himself after the storied “Chicken Little” — focused entirely on those possible events which might cause the sky to fall, rather than on the inevitability of change, and how to best embrace the future.

It is no wonder the Republican Party is in such a state of confusion and disarray.

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What, another Congressional Witch Hunt?

Why not just send the elected officials home from D.C, then drag a huge bag of money out onto the National Mall, and burn it?

That solution would accomplish much more, and cost much less, than this current circus John Boehner wants to convene.

Please: let’s not forget that John Boehner is a Congressman who was elected in 1990 to represent an obscure rural district in SW Ohio, having taken the seat from an incumbent child molester….

There really is something wrong with a governance model that has allowed Boehner to subsequently acquire so much power over the people of the United States — despite the reality that his Congressional District – the 8th District in Ohio – is comprised of just 725,000 people, roughly 0.0023% of the U.S. population.  And, this Congressional District looks nothing like the rest of the U.S.

It is 90% White, very blue collar, predominantly Republican, and quite conservative (not that there is anything wrong with that).

His district is not at all representative of the demographics of our citizenry, yet Mr. Boehner has somehow achieved the status of Chief Rocket Scientist (aka Speaker of the House), so he now has the power to pull the strings which may ultimately destroy our economy and take our country down.

We have a huge weakness in our governance model, and it is certainly not at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, as some ultra-conservative characters might like us to believe.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said on a CNN appearance in mid-February that support for President Barack Obama’s drone program was “very scary and worrisome” and he feared it could open a “Pandora’s box” about government’s power. 

Today’s decision by Sen. Paul — who was elected in 2010 with support from the Tea Party – to orchestrate a genuine filibuster focused on the potential for the Obama administration to use drones to attack an American on U.S. soil is not a shock.

 Scanning various news sources today, I almost concluded that Barack Obama invented the drone, and that he has been the unilateral champion of its use.  Paul went so far to say that, “Obama will be the executioner-in-chief if he sees fit.”

What seems to be missing from the news reports is that the first U.S. use of an unmanned Predator drone in a targeted killing took place over eleven years ago (February 2002) in Afghanistan, near the city of Khost.  In that case, CIA sources revealed at the time that the intended target was Osama bin Laden.  Journalists on the ground in Afghanistan learned from local Afghans that the dead men were unarmed civilians gathering scrap metal.

 Then-CIA Director Donald Rumsfeld explained: “A decision was made to fire the Hellfire missile. It was fired.”  – This information was primarily sourced from an article John Sifton wrote which appeared in a February 2012 edition of The Nation.

A Reuters story which ran in the NY Daily News on March 3, 2013 tells us:

“Tens of thousands of domestic drones already are in use nationwide, with more to come. They hover over Hollywood film sets and professional sports events. They track wildfires in Colorado, survey Kansas farm crops and vineyards in California.  They inspect miles of industrial pipeline and monitor wildlife, river temperatures and volcanic activity.  They also locate marijuana fields, reconstruct crime scenes and spot illegal immigrants breaching U.S. borders.

Increase of use in drones by law enforcement, movie studios, environmental organizations and the news media, comes as the U.S. government prepares to issue commercial drone permits in 2015. Many of those already flying do so without the proper permits. Currently, just 327 FAA-issued permits are active.”

Prior to his decision to filibuster today, Sen. Paul had publicly pushed the Commander in Chief to declare his position on the use of drones.  On February 21, Sen. Paul had said, “The question which I and many others have asked is not whether the administration has or intends to carry out drone strikes inside the United States, but whether it believes it has the authority to do so. This is an important distinction.”

In a March 4 letter to Sen. Paul, Attorney General Eric Holder said that such domestic use of drones is “entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur and one we hope no President will ever have to confront.”  Holder also said he couldn’t rule it out under an “extraordinary circumstance.”

Paul’s assertion that the administration has failed to provide sufficient assurances on the issue of drone usage is not universally supported among Republican legislators.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mi), chairman of the House intelligence committee said, “Any suggestion that the United States would use drone strikes against U.S. citizens in the United States is irresponsible.  Suggesting that such a thing is being contemplated provokes needless fear and detracts attention from the real threats facing the country.”

Certainly, as this saga unfolds new information will emerge, meanwhile, it seems to be ‘much ado about nothing’.

Sequestration Solution

February 24, 2013

Given Speaker John Boehner’s recent attacks on the executive office regarding federal budget cuts he believes are appropriate and necessary to bring Federal spending under control, I thought I would take a look at the most recent Federal budget to see what all of the commotion is about.

It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that trying to read and/or understand the Federal budget is an almost impossible task.

I was able to find some detail that shows the budget for “Salaries and Expenses of the House of Representatives” is $1.25 Billon. Plus an additional $574 Million for “Members’ representational allowances, including Members “clerk hire, official expenses, and official mail.” Plus, hundreds of millions of additional dollars to fund: various committees; salaries and expenses of ‘officers and employees’; allowances and expenses; joint items; and more.

Although determining the full cost allocated to support the expenses of having an elected House of Representatives seems to be almost impossible, it was also not clear what effect – if any – sequestration might have on the members of Congress and their staffs.

We’ve certainly heard dire predictions of negative consequences regarding loss of services due to cuts to the FAA; Homeland Security; and Department of Defense.

If funding to support the bureaucracy of our elected officials in the House of Representatives and the Senate were interrupted and all of the elected officials and employees of the legislative branch were furloughed for a week, 2 weeks, even a month — would there be any negative consequences to our society?

If we need to incur some immediate spending curtailments, I say, let’s furlough the legislative branch! Let’s send Speaker Boehner home to Ohio for a month with no salary, no benefits and no staff. When he comes back in April, maybe he will be ready to talk Turkey!

A Letter to Hon. John Boehner

December 28, 2012

Hon. John Boehner
Office of the Speaker
H-232 The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Boehner:

I’ve been following the saga of ‘the fiscal cliff’ since the end of summer 2012.

It was made very clear to us outside the Beltway (commonly known as citizens, voters and taxpayers) that our elected officials in Congress would take no action until after the November elections.

As disappointing as that news was, it seemed reasonable and appropriate to many of us on the outside to expect that our elected officials would do some talking behind the scenes in preparation for a call to action after the election at which time our elected officials would work together in the best interest of the overall U.S. economy — business, commerce, education and the citizens of the United States.

Now – several months later and just a few days from the ‘tipping point’ a.k.a the ‘fiscal cliff’– we seem to have a continuation of the petty, partisan and puerile drama that has come to categorize our Congress following the national elections of 2010.

November 2010 marked the point in time when a number of conservative tea party candidates were elected to the House of Representatives. The infusion of passionate but neophyte tea party representatives — all of whom signed the Grover Norquist Pledge — precipitated your election as Speaker in January 2011, which coincidently seems to mark the beginning of extreme dysfunction in our nation’s capital.

I have listened to you and some of the ‘young rascals’ who were elected in 2010 under the tea party platform.

When I listen, I hear some really great sound bites, focused almost entirely on the federal government.

There is no one I’ve met who wouldn’t like to see smaller government and reduced government spending — sweetened by the magic elixir of reduced taxes.

The real problem seems to be: Government (as we see and interact with it from outside the Beltway) includes federal, state, county, local, schools and a vast number of entities which operate in the public sector as ‘quasi-government’ agencies.

As a citizen, voter and taxpayer in the U.S., I know I pay: federal income taxes; federal excise taxes; state income taxes; state sales taxes; county property taxes; county sales taxes; city property taxes; city sales taxes; city sewer taxes; city library taxes; and property taxes levied by my local school district. I can quantify the majority of those taxes: what I can’t quantify is the amount of other government and quasi-government fees and taxes I pay daily, weekly monthly or annually: highway and bridge tolls, parking fees, hotel occupancy fees, motor vehicle fees, MTA fees, license fees, daily use fees, and park access fees, most of which are invisible to me.

You and the ‘young rascals’ have some great rhetoric: What I don’t hear from you and your tea party cabal is dialogue, discussion, research or new ideas about re-engineering our overall government in the U.S. for enhanced efficiency and longer term sustainability.

Mr. Boehner: With your intractable and rigid focus on cutting spending at the margins and continued tax breaks for the ultra-rich, I think you and your tea party followers may be threatening the very essence of the United States and our economy as a going concern.

That thought leads me to believe that you and some (or all) of your tea party cabal may be guilty of treason because your actions are diametrically opposed to the best interests of my fellow citizens, voters and taxpayer of the United States of America.

It is my hope, Mr. Boehner, that come Monday, December 31, 2012, you and your followers will move away from treason to align with the majority of American citizens, businesses and American society to ensure a rational, sensible and sustainable solution to the ‘fiscal cliff’ dilemma which currently threatens our country.

Thank you in advance for considering my opinions, and hopefully, for adjusting your posture to a more inclusive and mainstream position.

Sincerly,

The Walrus
Mount Vernon, NY 10552

Our U.S. economy is still shaky. A payroll tax cut was enacted to help increase the spending power of middle-class Americans, and it is due to expire at the end of February.

Class action lawsuits and medical malpractice lawsuits have driven up costs across our health care system, and could potentially be ameliorated through comprehensive tort reform.

There are dozens – probably hundreds – of serious domestic issues that our Congress could be working on.

Instead, they are currently focused on contraception.

Let’s set the record straight: Members of Congress who seek to limit the availability of affordable birth control all enjoy contraception insurance as part of the government managed Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB).

This benefit has been in place since 1998, and it “…ensures that federal employees participating in FEHB have insurance coverage of FDA-approved prescription contraceptives and related services.”

Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum told an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on February 10 that ‘insurance plans shouldn’t cover contraception services because birth control “costs a few dollars” and is only a “minor expense” for women.’

Good to know.

In my job – in my life – I am forced to prioritize my time and my efforts. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could spend all my time focused on minor issues that I think are “fun”?

That seems to be what our leaders in Congress are all about these days.

To paraphrase an old fable, “Rome is burning while our Congressional leaders are fiddling.”

We pay each and every member of Congress a base annual salary of $174,000, plus deluxe health care and pension benefits, and perks for things like travel and mail. There are various stipends for leadership roles as committee chairs, majority leader, minority leader, etc.

Most recent estimates of the total annual costs of our federal legislative body – Senate and House of Representatives — are in the $5 Billion range.

Now, some might point out that spending for the House and Senate, which includes salaries, mailings, and committee expenses, represents only .07 percent of total federal spending. The entire legislative branch includes additional expenses for the Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Budget Office, the Library of Congress, and some other functions.

That seems like a really good deal — if we are getting focus on critical issues and real results.

There are some – including voters, political scientists and lawmakers themselves– who have said that the 112th Congress (which convened on January 3, 2011) was our worst ever.

The 2011 session began with a House vote to repeal President Obama’s health-care law and ended with a flip-flop over the 60-day tax-cut extender — with detours in between for the two parties to flirt with shutting down the government, jeopardize the nation’s credit and various assorted legislative mayhem.

As a citizen, a taxpayer and a voter, I don’t much care what political party a person claims as their own.

What I do care about is: When they run for public office and get elected, our representatives put aside their personal agendas and work for the best long-term interests of our country.

Is that too much to ask for?

Speaker of the House

December 20, 2011

For the past several months, the Walrus has been wondering, “Who is John Boehner, and how did he become Speaker of the House?”

Rep. Boehner was elected to Congress to represent the residents of the 8th Congressional District in the State of Ohio. The 112th Congress was elected from districts based on the Census of 2000. There are 435 congressional districts in the U.S., and each district is a geographical division of a state containing a population of about 720,000 people from which one member of the House of Representatives is elected.

As Speaker of the House, Rep. Boehner is exercising extraordinary power over the government of the United States. This is very puzzling because I know I never had an opportunity to vote for him, and as I’ve asked around, I haven’t found anyone I know who voted in an election where John Boehner was a candidate.

What I observe is that Rep. Boehner (and his Lieutenant, Rep. Cantor) seem to be disconnected from the American value system, yet with sufficient power to be able to control critical outcomes which will impact all of us Americans for years to come.

Many of us had the opportunity to observe the federal government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996, orchestrated by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich during the Presidency of Bill Clinton. Given the long and close relationship between Gingrich and Boehner, one has to stop and ask, “Could this be déjà vu all over again?”

The Walrus thought you might like the opportunity to see some facts (yes, these are REAL facts) on the 8th District in Ohio. Note that most of the District falls into the Dayton Metropolitan Area, yet the 8th District was carefully drawn to exclude the City of Dayton (population 141,527) from the District.

Boehner himself is from the township of West Chester, Ohio which is located in the SE corner of Butler County, Ohio. Butler County is part of the Cincinnati–Middletown, OH-KY-IN MSA.

My look at a map of this District led me to think that this might be a poster child for gerrymandering, but further research would be required to support that hypothesis.

State of Ohio: 8th Congressional District
Geographic and Demographic Highlights

The City of Troy is the county seat of Miami County, Ohio as well as the largest city in this county with a 2010 population of 25,058. Troy is part of the Dayton Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Miami County population is 102,506 with a land area of 409 square miles.

Darke County, Ohio has a population of 52,959 with a land area of 600 square miles. The county seat is the City of Greenville, population 13,227. Physically located on the western border of Ohio, Darke County is contiguous to Wayne County, Indiana.

Preble County, Ohio has a population of 42,270 with a land area of 426 square miles. The county seat is the City of Eaton, population 8,407. Preble County is also on the western border of Ohio, contiguous to Union County, Indiana.

The District also includes some rural and semi-suburban areas of Butler County, Mercer County and the northeast corner of Montgomery County.